14 July 2018 (gig)
17 July 2018
De La Soul shows should probably come with a small-print warning that reads something along the lines of: Beware – this event is capable of inducing feelings of unambiguous elation that might not be anticipated. Side-effects can include grinning, laughter, clapping, funky dancing, embracing your fellow man, and a sudden abandonment of everything else that’s been getting you down lately. So potent is the formula, that not even the World Cup, the whole Brexit palaver and a visit from “that guy”, could dilute the effects of witnessing these remarkable hip-hop maestros in full flow.
Somerset House Summer Series is always a pleasure, never a chore. A cheap thrill it is not, but then nothing is in London these days. The courtyard yawns wide in the daytime, but somehow becomes incredibly warm and intimate of a summer’s eve and no matter where you stand you feel involved and engaged. And that’s before De La even hit the stage. In case you hadn’t checked your calendar recently, next year will mark 30 years since the release of 3 Feet High & Rising, so expect there to be a slew of dates to mark this landmark hip-hop achievement. Sign up now.
These guys know how to entertain, pure and simple. They engage with the audience from the moment they bound on stage, projecting a level of camaraderie and jocular bonhomie that never lets up throughout. This is not some stock, play the hits, get back to the bus, type affair. Posdnuos, Trugoy and Maseo have the knack of making you feel very welcome, and then they make damn sure you have a great night. The casual confidence they exude that allows them to break into a track, only to halt it a few lines in, crack some jokes, share an observation, then jump back into it, is a sign of a band who are truly at ease, utterly unafraid of their reputation, and totally in step with one another. Their playful mischievousness is infectious and it’s both a privilege and a delight to witness.
Moreover, the band are fantastic live. Three live drummers, a stunning horn section, bass and guitars all makes for an insanely joyful, funky noise – whether they’re playing more recent tracks, or elaborating a classic from the early days. That same irreverence that they bring to their onstage banter means they have no desire to stay wedded to how the songs may have once sounded on record. And the show is all the better and richer for it. And then – with the quickness it was over. Cruelly deprived of an encore, but nonetheless euphoric, the crowd disperses into the heat of the night, all buzzed up. Plenty more to look forward to next year, methinks.